Search This Blog

Trolling Heavy Metal

By Mark Romanack with Captain Steve Martin

A typical day aboard the MI Hi out of Benton Harbor, Michigan in late 
April and the month of May.
In recent years sinking style fishing lines like lead core and copper line have become critically
important to Great Lakes trout and salmon trolling. These lines can be used to reach substantial depths and with the help of in-line planer boards like the popular Off Shore Tackle OR12 Side-Planer it’s possible to stack several of these lines off each side of the boat.

Great Lakes charter captains like Steve Martin literally live and die by how well they can produce fish on boards these days. “When I’m salmon trolling I always have a minimum of three board lines per side in the water and often I’m fishing four board lines per side,” says Captain Steve. “In the spring at Benton Harbor when the fish are typically in 60 feet of water or less, we run a lot of lead core set ups and usually the 3, 5, 7 and 10 color rigs are the ticket.

Captain Steve runs a braided backing on his lead core and copper rigs. “I set up my OR12 Side-Planers with a OR18 Snapper Release on the tow arm and an OR16 Snap Weight Clip at the back of the boat,” explains Captain Steve. “By running the shorter rigs that also fish closer to the surface on the outside and the progressively deeper rigs closer to the boat, I can stagger four lines per side and never have to clear a line to fight a hooked fish.”

The lighthouse at Point Betsie is one of Lake Michigan’s most stoic landmarks.
Later in the summer when Captain Steve moves his charter business up to Frankfort, Michigan, he continues to run a lot of board lines. In Frankfort however he puts more emphasis on fishing deeper running 45# test copper line rigs. “My typical Frankfort board set up is a 200 copper on the outside, followed by a 250 copper, then a 300 copper and my board closest to the boat is running either a 350 or 400 copper,” explains Captain Steve. “Depending on how deep the fish may be, I may also mix in lead core rigs to fish the higher parts of the water column.”

No matter if Captain Steve is fishing copper or lead core, he is always using the OR12 Side-Planer. “I’m completely sold on the Off Shore boards for trolling heavy metal,” says Steve. “In fact, I think the OR12 fishes better in rough water than other boards I have tried. Also in turns the Side-Planer rides more upright in the water and does an excellent job of handling the heavy pull and resistance of long copper line rigs. Heavy copper line rigs tend to pull other boards onto their side when making turns which often causes the board to dive.”

One of the best equipped charters on the Great Lakes, the Mi Hi chases
trout and salmon at both Benton Harbor and Frankfort, Michigan. 
Editor Note:  Steve Martin of Mi Hi Charters puts more days on the water than any other captain we know. Steve also fishes the Off Shore Tackle Side-Planer literally every day he’s targeting trout, salmon and steelhead. Captain Steve has the respect of anyone who has fished on his boat or fished against him on the tournament trail. To learn more or book a charter visit